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Turbulence, p.15

Turbulence, page 15

 

Turbulence
 


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  “Okay.” His slowly released breath and half-hearted smile were clearly the best he could do. Dana knew the man was worried, and rightly so, but calming fears was a part of her job. Will didn’t need a panic-stricken parent hovering over him.

  The front door burst open and Micky rushed in on a gust of warm, rain-scented air. He stood on the rug, his slicker dripping as he pushed back his hood.

  Dana hurried to meet him. “Well?” she demanded.

  “We’ve been advised to wait an hour.”

  It wasn’t the green light she’d hoped for, but Dana had to leave decisions about flying to the experts. The best news was that they had made contact with someone, so she wasn’t completely on her own if she ran into medical problems.

  Clay, however, was the one who was horrified. “An hour?” he echoed.

  “At least.” An unspoken acknowledgment of the time frame she’d given him earlier passed between them. He didn’t have to say that he knew they might be cutting things close for Will. It was evident in his eyes.

  As much as she wished their circumstances were otherwise, unless she could wave a magic wand, they were grounded for a minimum of sixty minutes.

  Clay turned to Dana. “Can he hold on that long?”

  That was the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. Telling him that they couldn’t would only make him fret more.

  “Yes,” she said, hoping fate wouldn’t prove her a liar. “Will is going to be fine. Would you like to break the news to the boys while Micky and I work out the details?”

  “Yeah, I can do that,” he said.

  As soon as Clay was out of earshot, Micky asked, “You’re expecting Will to become critical, aren’t you?”

  “Technically, he’s already there,” she said honestly, “but Clay has to stay calm. Worrying about his son losing his arm function won’t help. As for waiting, we don’t have a choice, do we?”

  “No.”

  “So we’ll think positive.” She said it as much for her own benefit as his. “Did you get through to a hospital?”

  “Yes and no,” Micky told her. “The guy I spoke with is going to alert the hospital about our situation and give them our ETA. He’s also requesting a couple of ambulances to be standing by at the Beeville airport. If you need to talk to a doctor before then, he’ll patch us through.”

  As preparations went, she couldn’t find fault, but she still chafed at the delay. “What if we drove instead of flew? We wouldn’t waste that hour and we could go straight to the hospital.”

  “Even with a delay, flying is faster than driving,” he pointed out. “The only transportation I have here is an old truck that would accommodate three of us at the most.”

  “Oh.”

  “The roads are the next problem. About two miles north is a creek that floods if it rains a couple of inches. I don’t need a gauge to know we’ve gotten more than that.”

  “Damn.”

  “An hour might seem like forever, but there isn’t any reason why we can’t be in the plane and ready to take off as soon as we receive clearance,” he pointed out. “Chances are, we’ll spend most of that time transferring everyone on board. Unless I take Will and leave you behind?”

  She frowned at him. “Fat chance of that. I’m going with you. If Will has a problem, you can’t look after him and fly the plane, too. I can also tell you that Clay wouldn’t consider waiting here while his son goes off without him. Then there’s Josh with his knee and Pete—”

  “Yeah, I know. It didn’t hurt to ask.”

  “How sure are you that we’ll be able to leave? What if we’re all set and—?”

  “Well, now, darlin’,” he interrupted in his lazy drawl, “in case you’ve forgotten, I’m in charge of flight arrangements. You handle what’s on your plate and I’ll handle what’s on mine.”

  “Okay, I will,” she promised.

  He shrugged off his slicker and hung it on the coat tree before he checked his watch. “If you’re planning on leaving in fifty minutes, we’d better get organized.”

  Dana and Micky rejoined Clay and the boys to discover Clay had already passed along the major details.

  “Is it true?” Pete asked, his dark eyes wide with a combination of relief and dread. “We’re leaving?”

  “Within the hour,” she confirmed. “We were going to wait until closer to evening, but we have to speed things up a bit for Will’s sake.”

  “And then what?” Eddie’s eyes were wide behind his glasses.

  “Someone will call your parents, and eventually you’ll go home.” She grinned. “Your adventure will end.”

  “We didn’t finish sorting your pennies,” Eddie told Micky. “I’d really hoped to find something special. It would have been so exciting,” he finished on a wistful note.

  Micky ruffled the boy’s hair. “I’ll sort through them whenever I get a chance,” he said. “If I come across anything interesting or of value, I’ll let you know.”

  Somewhat appeased, Eddie began scooping the coins back into the jug.

  The rest of the hour passed by quickly. The boys gathered their gear and restored the house to rights as much as possible.

  “The dishes will have to wait,” Micky said. “I’ll fly back in a few days to check the place over for damage and deal with them then.”

  Dana was curious if he’d come back alone or if he’d bring someone with him, then decided it was none of her business.

  Instead, she concentrated on preparing her patients for the trek across the yard and another bumpy flight. Will received most of her attention. It was becoming increasingly difficult to feel the telltale thump in his wrist.

  Knowing that she couldn’t do anything to reverse the damage, she hugged that information to herself. Micky’s attention had to be on his plane and the weather conditions. For all she knew, flying them out was a huge risk, and she didn’t want to dump any additional stress on him.

  At the last possible moment, she tied Will’s arm to his stomach and chest with a swath of gauze.

  “To make absolutely sure that nothing gets jostled,” she told him.

  When she was finished, Eddie took one look at his buddy. “He’s a mummy,” he pantomimed, walking stiff-legged around the room.

  Spirits lifted by Eddie’s antics, the raggedy group slowly made their way to the plane. As Micky had predicted, transferring everyone took nearly the entire hour.

  Dana stood in the hangar, waiting for Micky to taxi outside so she could close the door, but his thumbs-up never appeared. When he shook his head, her heart sank.

  She slipped around to meet him at the rear door. “No go?”

  “No go,” he confirmed. “They know we’re ready and waiting, so they’ll radio us as soon as they feel it’s safe.”

  “Did they say how long?”

  He shook his head. “Sorry.”

  Dana drew a deep breath, aware of the boys’ gazes resting on her. “Do we wait here, or go back inside?”

  “Let’s give it another fifteen minutes,” Micky advised.

  Resigned, she climbed on board and sank into the copilot’s seat to wait. No one spoke.

  Micky settled his headset over his baseball cap, and fifteen minutes later, he radioed the tower again.

  “We don’t advise you to leave, Piper two-six-four,” the disembodied voice said. “Standby.”

  “Roger that,” Micky replied.

  The next quarter hour had never seemed so long. “All right,” Dana said, chafing at the delay and unable to stay cooped up another minute. “Let’s go back to the house. We can’t sit here for hours.” She started to rise, but just as she did, the air traffic controller gave them permission for take-off.

  “Roger,” Micky said brightly. As soon as he signed off, he gave a whoop and a holler. “Let’s get this baby rolling.”

  He taxied into the heavy rain and Dana closed the hangar doors. Once she returned to her seat in the cockpit, his mood had changed from elated to serious.

  “It’s g
oing to be a rough ride,” Micky warned her. “I’ll try to minimize the bumps as much as I can, but…” He lifted one shoulder in an apologetic shrug.

  “We’ll manage,” she said firmly. “As long as we arrive in one piece.”

  He grinned his devilish grin…the one that caused her heart to skip a beat. “We will. I have faith in Maggie May.”

  “To be honest, I have more faith in the pilot.”

  “Why, thank you, ma’am,” he drawled. “A vote of confidence is always welcome.”

  As she peered through the rain-lashed windshield, she remembered something he’d once said.

  “I thought you couldn’t fly in a heavy downpour.”

  “Yup,” he said, clearly unconcerned that she’d brought up the point. “I said that.”

  “Then what’s this?” She motioned outside.

  “That, darlin’,” he told her, “is just a regular Texas downpour.”

  It looked heavy to her. “I’m not sure I believe you.”

  “Come on, Red. Where’s your sense of adventure?”

  “On vacation,” she promptly replied.

  “You probably can’t tell, but the rain isn’t as heavy as it was an hour ago.”

  He was right; she couldn’t tell.

  “If you’re worried about flying into the wild blue yonder,” he continued, “we can sit tight for another hour.”

  “No—no,” she repeated, although she suspected that he’d hidden his concerns about the weather conditions just as she’d done with her concerns about Will. “We can’t. If you say it’s safe, I trust you.”

  Micky was an experienced pilot, and instinctively she knew that if anyone could fly them through this, he could.

  His smile spread across his face. “Good girl,” was all he said. “Now, if everyone’s strapped in back there to your satisfaction, we’ll head for the sky.”

  Dana rubbed a circle on the foggy glass window beside her, trying vainly to see outside as she braced herself for takeoff.

  “Can’t see a thing, can you?” he said, sounding quite cheerful, as if he knew she was worried about their lack of visibility.

  “No. Can you?”

  “Enough. But I have the advantage of knowing my runway like the back of my hand. And—” he tapped his instrument panel “—these tell me all I need to know. So sit back and enjoy the trip.”

  Dana sat back, but as for enjoying the experience, she’d reserve judgment until they touched down.

  It was, as Micky had warned, a wild ride, but maybe because she knew the end was in sight, or because she simply gritted her teeth and hung on, it didn’t seem as horrible as the flight here.

  She also found a certain comfort in watching Micky.

  His large hands handled the controls with all the gentleness of a man holding a baby. Every movement was unhurried and well-rehearsed. His expression was intent, yet the strong lines of his jaw remained relaxed even when he guided them through pockets of turbulence.

  Idly she wondered what would happen when this mission had ended. Would she see him again, or would she be so busy with cleanup efforts that their paths wouldn’t cross?

  “What are you going to do when this is over?” she asked impulsively.

  “Somewhere in Beeville is a thick, juicy steak with my name on it,” he said. “And after that,” he winked at her, “I’m open to suggestions.”

  “Will you fly us back to Turning Point tonight?”

  “I could,” he said. “Or we can stay in town until morning. It’ll depend on whether we can get through to Mitch for a status report.”

  She nodded. Half of her hoped to postpone their inevitable parting for another day, while the other half reminded her that she’d come to Texas to do a job, not foster a romance.

  One night wouldn’t make a difference, would it?

  “But if I were you,” he added, “I wouldn’t count on getting through to the chief for a while.”

  “Why not?”

  “Heavy rain sometimes disrupts telephone service. And depending on what happened to the cell phone towers, we may be stranded another night.”

  Anticipation rushed through her. She wouldn’t mind spending an entire evening with Micky, especially one without chaperones. If the truth were known, she’d be content with only a few quiet, uninterrupted hours.

  Before she could plan too far ahead or make conversation, sudden turbulence demanded his attention. For the next fifteen minutes, he concentrated on keeping his plane in the sky.

  “Is everyone okay back there?” he asked.

  She glanced over her shoulder. “As far as I can tell. I’ll check.”

  As she placed a hand on her safety harness to unfasten it, he barked, “Don’t. Unless you want to break your neck.”

  She stopped. “Not particularly. How much longer?”

  “We’ll be there before you can sing the first verse of ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas.’”

  “I don’t know the words, so it could take a while,” she returned.

  “Sorry. We’ll be there before I can sing the first verse.” He glanced at her and smiled. “Feel better?”

  “Absolutely.” She stared through the window. “I thought the bad weather would have cleared off by now.”

  “The storm cell must not be moving as fast as predicted. Notice that break in the clouds along the horizon? We won’t see any of that clear blue sky until later this afternoon. Maybe not until this evening.”

  Another dip swallowed her reply, but fortunately, she could see the airport. “Just a few more minutes,” he promised as he began his approach.

  Dana fell silent while he took care of the myriad details necessary to land safely. She didn’t doubt that he could perform each task without a second thought, but she didn’t intend to distract him under today’s conditions. Between the wind, the rain, and the rain-slick runway, he had to remain focused.

  When they touched down, she was ready to shout a hearty “yes” until she realized that Micky didn’t act as if this was a typical landing. His hands gripped the wheel and he frowned as he tried to slow their progress.

  “Damn,” he muttered.

  “What’s wrong?” She hated to bother him by asking and yet she had to know.

  “We’re hydroplaning.”

  Fully conscious of the end of the tarmac ahead of them, Dana braced herself as they barreled down the runway. In a car, hitting the brakes would only send it into a skid, so she assumed the same thing applied to a plane.

  With bated breath, she watched Micky fight to slow them down. Just when she was sure they’d slip off the edge of the concrete and onto the mud and grass, the rubber tires grabbed the tarmac and they squealed to a sideways stop.

  “We made it,” he said cheerfully, as if nothing unusual had happened.

  “Yeah, we did.” She told herself to move, but her muscles wouldn’t respond. Her body was frozen in position and her heart hadn’t started pumping again.

  He flipped toggle-switches and checked his instruments before he glanced at her. “Are you okay?”

  She managed a smile. “I will be in a minute.”

  He grinned. “Should I kiss you again? Just to get your blood flowing?”

  This time, her smile was genuine. “I’ll take a raincheck on that.”

  “Cash it in whenever you’d like,” he quipped.

  She could hardly wait.

  MICKY WAS USED TO WAITING in airports, so waiting in a hospital while Dana took care of her patients wasn’t much different. Fortunately he had ready access to the E.R. coffee pot and he took full advantage of it. After their wild finish, he needed something to calm his nerves and temper the adrenalin rush that was slow to disappear.

  Actually he’d much rather make love with Dana than drown himself in a pot of coffee, but sometimes a man had to settle for second best.

  He glanced at his watch. He and Eddie had been hanging out together since they’d arrived at the hospital around one o’clock. They’d sat through the 3:00 p.m. shift ch
ange and now it was getting close to six.

  “Can I get y’all anything?” A buxom brunette nurse wearing a maroon scrub suit appeared in the doorway of the family room where he and Eddie had been relegated to wait. “More coffee, a soda?” she asked. “I think I could round up a few cookies, too.”

  From her come-hither smile, Micky didn’t doubt that she’d be happy to supply whatever he asked for, edible or otherwise. A week ago, he wouldn’t have hesitated to take whatever she offered, but today, he wasn’t interested.

  “I’m good,” he said, holding up his cup before he addressed Eddie and Pete, who had recently joined them after being diagnosed with a simple sprained wrist. “What about you two? Do you want another bottle of pop or a candy bar?”

  Eddie blinked owlishly behind his glasses as he stared at the bottom of his now-empty potato chip bag. “Nah, I’m fine.”

  “Me, too,” Pete chimed in.

  Micky glanced back at the nurse. Trixie, he read off her name tag. “We’re okay.”

  “If y’all should change your mind, just come and find me,” she said with a bright smile. “I’ll be going to supper in about thirty minutes, and I don’t like to eat by myself.”

  Somehow, Micky doubted if her invitation included the boys. He wasn’t about to leave the two teens alone, and if he had his choice, he’d rather eat hot dogs with Dana and the boys than prime rib with Trixie.

  What was wrong with him? Turning down the bird about to fall into his hand for one still in the bush wasn’t like him, but he simply couldn’t do otherwise.

  “Thanks,” he said, flashing his most engaging smile to soften his refusal. “But we’ll wait for my partner.”

  Partner. He hadn’t had a partner since Daniel “Irish” McGreevey had flown C-130s with him in what felt like a lifetime ago. It seemed odd to realize that in this instance, he couldn’t have handpicked someone better than Dana to fill the position. She’d brought her unique set of skills to the mix, making them a formidable…and successful…team.

  “Oh.” Trixie’s smile dimmed. “If y’all should change your mind, just let me know.”

 
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